Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case, illustrating a common difficulty many Virginia premises liability plaintiffs face when attempting to establish a defendant’s liability. The case presented the court with the task of determining whether the plaintiff’s awareness of the slick patch of ice that caused her to slip and fall was fatal to her claim against the defendant shop owner. Ultimately, the court concluded that the evidence was undisputed that the plaintiff was aware of the hazard and that she was not forced to leave out the same door she entered. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff’s case was properly dismissed.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was visiting the defendant’s store on an errand for her employer. As the plaintiff approached the front door to the store, she noticed that a water spigot had been left on and that water was spilling onto the pavement and freezing. The plaintiff negotiated the ice without issue and, believing that the ice was a hazard to other customers, let an employee know as soon as she entered the store.
The employee informed the plaintiff that she could leave out a set of rolling doors on the side of the building. The employee gave the plaintiff directions, but instructed the plaintiff not to tell anyone he told her to exit through the door, otherwise he could get fired. The plaintiff found the rolling doors, but they were locked.
The plaintiff contemplated asking another employee to unlock the doors, but did not do so for fear of getting the employee that told her about the doors in trouble. The plaintiff walked back to the employee’s office, but he was with another customer. Not sure of whether there were any other exits, the plaintiff left out the front door. As she was leaving, she slipped on the ice and sustained serious injuries as a result of the fall.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant store. In response, the store argued that the plaintiff’s equal knowledge of the ice that caused her fall was fatal to her claim. The plaintiff responded that, although she was aware of the ice, she was left with no other choice but to leave the way she came in because the rolling doors were locked and she did not want to ask the employee to unlock them for fear someone may see and he would be reprimanded.
The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument, finding first that she was aware of the hazard. From there, the court discussed the plaintiff’s argument that she was forced to leave out of the same door where the ice was located. The court held that the level of force or “coercion” necessary to establish the claim the plaintiff was trying to make was lacking from the plaintiff’s claim because her fear for the employee’s job was insufficient to show coercion. The court did note that, had the plaintiff’s own job been on the line, the result of the case may have been different.
Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyers at Law Offices of Charles B. Roberts, P.C. have extensive experience handling all types of Virginia personal injury cases and know what it takes to be successful on their clients’ behalf. To learn more about how Attorney Roberts can help you with your case, call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation today.
See More Blog Posts:
Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Uninsured Motorist Claim in Recent Car Accident Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 5, 2018.
Slip-and-Fall Accidents in Virginia Grocery Stores, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 18, 2018.